What Can Arsenal Learn From The World Cup Group Stage?

By Paul Sweeny (@thesweeney51)

1) Football’s become a goal scoring arms race and Arsenal need to weapon up

This World Cup’s seen the most goals scored at a final in a very long time – 3.14 goals on average per game. No World Cup has averaged over three goals per game since 1958.

This broadly mirrors the trend in Europe’s elite leagues. The average goals per game in the Premier League was 2.58 from 2006-10, but 2.79 from 2010-14.

Gone are the days where a team might only concede 17 league goals in a Premier League season – as Arsenal managed in the 98-99 season. Arsenal conceded 42 goals last season, only narrowly bettered by eventual champions Man City on 37.  It would obviously be preferable if Arsenal could not concede the bulk of these against their title rivals in devastating losses.

The rules of the game continue to swing away from defenders in favour of attacking players. I’d love to see stats on “tackles attempted” versus “fouls given” over a long period of time. Unscientifically I’d expect to see the proportion of “fouls given” steadily on the increase.

Even the disappearing foam in use during the World Cup inhibits defenders charging at free kicks – another step down the path of dis-empowering defenders.

Modern TV and fans demand goals to fill highlight reels and TV montages. Not Tony Adams organising an offside trap.

Arsenal scored 68 goals last season compared Man City’s 102 and Liverpool’s 101, requiring exactly 50 percent more goals to match the champion’s total.

Giroud plus Sanogo simply doesn’t cut it.

2) The post-possession era?

As the Spanish cycle naturally comes to an end due to the age profile of the team, it would be very easy to make sweeping statements about possession based football.

Tika-Taka was made possible by the likes Xavi and Iniesta playing at almost impossibly high levels.

Germany aside, the most effective teams in this World Cup have moved the ball quickly and directly through midfield, exploiting defences before they’re set.

Arsenal was put to the sword by Liverpool, Chelsea and City last season in a similar style. With Van Gaal’s Holland deploying the tactic better than most in Brazil, we can probably expect Manchester United to evolve into something similar.

Arsene would do well to spend his time in Brazil watching the likes of Colombia, Holland and Chile, and how teams set up against them.

3) Where does Jack Wilshere fit in for club and country?

Anyone watching Wilshere emerge a few years ago and suggesting he’ll be ousted from the international side by Jordan Henderson would have been laughed out of town.

But that’s exactly what’s happened – and deservedly so.

His England career – and Arsenal, you could argue – hasn’t taken off as many hoped. Progress has been hampered by injuries, a frustrating tendency to hold onto the ball for a second too long and the emergence of viable alternatives.

He looked like the future of the England midfield, now he finds himself sandwiched in a hinterland between the retiring Gerrard and Lampard and the emerging talents of Barkley and Sterling.

At Arsenal he finds Ramsey and Özil occupying his two preferred positions and the club reportedly on the lookout for a new defensive midfielder.

There’s still time for Wilshere – he need only look at his club mate Aaron Ramsey for inspiration – but his time of reckoning is approaching fast.

You can follow him on twitter : (@thesweeney51)

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